Confused motorists were steering clear of Olympic lanes this week – even though they don’t come into force for the next 9 days.
Thousands of cars could be seen diverting away from the VIP-only “Games lanes” – fearing a £130 fine – as confusion spread about their operation.
The only Olympic lane to come into force today was on the M4 from Heathrow into central London, with the former M4 bus lane reserved for athletes and 2012 dignitaries.
A Transport for London spokesman said: “The M4 is flowing well today and central London traffic is down by 10 per cent, showing people have heeded our message not to drive in central London.”
But on main roads across the capital already painted with the Olympic rings logo, designating them as Games lanes, drivers were seen cutting into the middle lane — causing bottlenecks in the process.
This was happening on roads such as the A4 – while on the A40 Marylebone Road, the Games lane was empty of vehicles, causing congestion in the “normal” lane.
All Games lanes except that on the M4 remain open to all traffic until July 25 – two days before the opening ceremony – in a bid to minimise disruption to motorists.
Eltham MP Clive Efford called for leniency after raising the fines issue with Met Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe last week.
The police chief insisted there would be tough enforcement. “ People have to respect the lanes,” Mr Efford said. “But when the enforcement comes in, they [police] have got to look at the circumstances and if it’s a simple mistake, then I think they should look at it favourably.”
Some drivers said the lane system was so poorly signposted it was causing confusion and tailbacks, especially on access roads to the motorway.
Max Oppenheim, 40, a hedge fund manager from Chiswick, said: “I have been past it three times and only noticed the sign saying ‘ Olympic Lanes’ once.
“It is causing a bottleneck at the access after Hogarth roundabout, as when you come off, people are instantly cutting in from the right lane to avoid it.
“I effectively got T-boned. You can’t see it from a hundred yards back. There needs to be more clarity”.
However, Pedro Cintra, 40, who works for a media company, said: “ The road is fine, the Olympic Lane made no difference. The traffic was no worse than usual.”
Van driver Phil Roberts, 30, said: “The M4 was okay and the traffic was better than last week when it was closed. I wasn’t aware of the lane though and didn’t see the signs.”
The M4 lane can, in theory, operate between 5am and 10pm but will be activated based on demand.
It stretches along 3.5 miles of the eastbound M4 between junctions 3 and 2 — the route of the former M4 bus lane which was abolished by the Coalition government. All other motorists are banned from the lane during operating hours but licensed taxi drivers are exempt.
Vehicles of 7.5 tonnes-plus are banned from the M4 link during ongoing repairs to the damaged Boston Manor flyover and are being diverted along the A4. But official Olympic coaches and buses are exempt from the ban.
Elsewhere in the capital jams have formed on roads as motorists avoid the lanes marked with the Olympic rings — even though most of the restrictions will not be activated until 6am on Wednesday 25 July.
Traffic has built up on an eastbound stretch of the North Circular near Wembley as three lanes of traffic converge into two. Motorists claimed a sign saying the Olympic lane was not in use was not clearly visible.
In other news, Stuck in a traffic jam for five and a half days !
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